Marius Barbeau A glimpse of Canadian Culture (1883-1969)
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Barbeau's Story


Marius Barbeau was born on March 5, 1883 in Sainte-Marie de Beauce, Québec, Canada. He obtained a law degree from Université Laval, and went on to win a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, where he obtained a degree in Anthropology. In 1911, as an anthropologist, Barbeau joined the National Museum, (at that time part of the Geological Survey of Canada) and worked there until his retirement in 1949. He remained closely associated with the Museum until his death on February 27, 1969.

Barbeau's first research interest was the Native peoples of Eastern Canada, especially the Huron. His research in the field of Native studies soon grew to include work on the songs, customs, legends, art and social organization of Native cultures in the Western and Prairie regions. Next he turned to French Canada, popularizing the distinctive songs, folk legends and popular and traditional art through numerous books and articles. His interest in Native and French Canadian art led Barbeau to work with such artists as A.Y. Jackson, Emily Carr and Ernest MacMillan. Whatever his research, Barbeau remained an inveterate collector - from French Canada some 400 folk tales and 7,000 songs were collected, along with 2,000 artifacts from across Canada. His writings total over 1,000 books and articles, and he has left 12 linear metres of manuscripts and more than 30 linear metres of research notes.

A self-proclaimed pioneer in the fields of anthropology and folk culture, Barbeau's work won international acclaim. He was a three-time award winner of Québec's prestigious Prix David, the recipient of honorary doctorates from the Universities of Montréal and Oxford, and was named a Companion of the Order of Canada. In 1985 Marius Barbeau was recognized as a "person of national historic importance" by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, and a plaque, making official this designation, was unveiled in 1990 in the Salon Marius Barbeau in the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Finally the highest point in the Canadian Arctic, a mountain on Ellesmere Island, was given the name "Barbeau Peak", in his honour.

Through the following pages we invite you to meet Marius Barbeau in an autobiographical account in which he tells us about his fascinating career.

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